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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014
- Parl No.
- Committee Name
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Marshall, Sen Gavin
Siewert, Sen Rachel
Reynolds, Sen Linda
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Content WindowLegal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee - 28/07/2014 - Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014
FINNEY, Ms Frances, Assistant Secretary, Citizenship Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection
JOHNSON, Dr Richard, Assistant Secretary, Visa Framework and Family Policy Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection
MANNING, Mr Gregory, First Assistant Secretary, Access to Justice Division, Attorney-General's Department
WILLIAMS, Ms Kelly, Assistant Secretary, Marriage and Intercountry Adoption Branch, Attorney-General's Department
WOOD, Ms Allison, Principal Legal Officer, Marriage and Intercountry Adoption Branch, Attorney-General's Department
Evidence was taken via teleconference—
CHAIR: We will now move to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Attorney-General's Department. Departmental people—if I can call you that collectively—do you wish to make any sort of opening statement?
Mr Manning : Neither department has an opening statement.
CHAIR: Perhaps we could start with the last question that Ms Lamoin raised, which we had talked about before. I am not sure whether you were on the line there. Do the provisions of the Hague convention as regards standards and safeguards apply to the bilateral arrangements? Can you comment on that?
Mr Manning : The approach of successive governments and the department in administering the intercountry adoption program is to ensure that in practice the same standards are applied to our partner countries whether or not they are parties to the Hague convention.
Can I make a point at the outset that may clarify some of the issues you were discussing. In terms of Australia's intercountry adoption program that is in operation at the moment, there are only two with non-Hague countries. Those countries are South Korea, which is actually in what I think are the finals stages of ratifying the Hague convention so it will soon be a country, and Taiwan. I really do not have an answer to this, but it may be that there are reasons related to its status that Taiwan cannot become a member of a multilateral treaty such as the Hague convention.
CHAIR: That was my understanding of a lot of things with Taiwan back from my fishing days.
Mr Manning : I think the same would apply here.
CHAIR: That may be the answer to the other part that Ms Lamoin raised, which was: if these countries are following the rules why aren't they part of the convention? As I understand it, you are saying one is about to become and the other cannot because of the China versus China relationship.
Senator MARSHALL: Well, we are guessing that.
CHAIR: Guessing that. It is a good guess though.
Senator MARSHALL: It probably is. It would have been nice if they could have said that to us definitively.
Senator SIEWERT: Are there other countries that are being considered that are non-Hague countries?
Mr Manning : The government has acknowledged that it is interested in discussions in relation to potentially opening new programs in seven countries, all of which are party to the Hague convention. There is no proposal or work under way at the moment to open a new program with any non-Hague country.
Senator SIEWERT: I missed the beginning bit due to the telephone connection. Did you say it is only those countries that we talked about that are currently being considered?
Mr Manning : Did you ask me to list them?
CHAIR: If you can both hear me okay, I will repeat that. Senator Siewert was saying that you mentioned South Korea and Taiwan. Can you confirm that you are not speaking with anyone else who is not already a Hague convention country in relation to adoptions? Is that it, Senator Siewert?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, thanks.
Mr Manning : I can confirm that that is the case at the moment.
Senator SIEWERT: You also said that there are no others in contention at the moment.
Mr Manning : That is right.
Senator SIEWERT: But there is the potential for other countries to be included in bilateral arrangements in the future under this bill?
Mr Manning : I should just clarify that, as you would expect, I am not engaging in any sophistry here. I merely said 'at the moment' because I understand there are 90-plus countries who are parties to the Hague convention and there are 200 or so countries in the world so I cannot rule out sometime in the future that it would not occur. I can say that there is no plan or work that I am aware of, as the person heading the area that is responsible for administering the intercountry program, to do so. There is no suggestion that we are aware of at the moment. There is nothing under active consideration on that front.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you for that, but it is clear that this bill enables that if it were proposed in the future?
Mr Manning : This bill does not change the existing arrangements or potential for that to occur. My immigration colleagues can talk better than I can about what the bill does, but the bill merely changes the way in which citizenship can be obtained by a child who has been adopted in a non-Hague convention country. The framework, though, whereby Australia can deal with non-Hague countries is not affected by this bill at all.
It is worth noting that article 21 of the convention talks about adoption and actually acknowledges, I suppose, because it lists in a number of articles the safeguards that perhaps should be adhered to in relation to adoption. Then, of the countries to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and I think there are only two countries in the world last time I looked that are not parties to it, article 21(e) says:
Promote, where appropriate, the objectives of the present article by concluding bilateral or multilateral arrangements or agreements, and endeavour, within this framework, to ensure that the placement of the child in another country is carried out by competent authorities or organs.
I make that point merely to note that the overarching agreement, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, envisages that there could be bilateral arrangements or state-to-state agreements. Then that is implemented in Australia through the Family Law Act, which again has provisions for both adoptions from Hague countries and adoptions pursuant to other arrangements, and then that flows on through the regulations. None of that framework is affected at all by the legislation that is under consideration by this committee. In a way, the changes here do not make it more likely or less likely. So I refer back to my previous answer that none of that work is under consideration at the moment.
Senator MARSHALL: Can anyone tell me what the departmental response is to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights report into this bill?
Ms Finney : The minister is currently considering a response to the human rights committee and we would be happy to provide a copy of the response after that has been made.
Senator MARSHALL: Does the department have a view of the committee report at 1.46, where it says:
In the committee's view, the bill may limit the rights of the child, and particularly the obligation to consider the best interests of the child in relation to inter-country adoptions?
Mr Manning : I would just refer the committee back to my previous answer, which is that, whilst this bill deals with the ability to obtain citizenship in Australia, the bill does not actually go to the safeguards that exist in relation to adoption generally. The bill, in a way, is not intended to change the overall structure that I spoke of earlier, so it is perhaps not surprising that it does not go into particular standards in relation to intercountry adoptions under a bilateral arrangement generally. I just make that overarching point and now hand you back to my Department of Immigration colleagues for a more specific answer.
Ms Finney : In relation to the particular proposal, the department is of the view that it is consistent with article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Because the intercountry adoptions have been undertaken through the bilateral agreement, the non-Hague countries have the same safeguards, as Mr Manning was saying, and the same safeguards with respect to the approval of competent authorities in the prevention of improper financial gain and the prevention of child trafficking which are applied to their country programs which are parties to the Hague convention. There is also the aspect of facilitation of the adopted child's entry to Australia by a more streamlined and cost-effective means so that in the child's interests they are able to commence their life with their adoptive families in Australia more quickly without the compromise to their wellbeing.
Senator MARSHALL: That is an obvious question. I will come back to that one. I will go on because neither department has made a written submission to this committee on its inquiry into this legislation nor did you make any opening comments. So you have not addressed any of the concerns which have been raised by either other committees of the parliament or by other submitters. I want to explore this committee and then I want to ask you about some of the issues raised by other submissions. The Joint Committee on Human Rights goes on to justify the statement I read earlier to say that:
This is because the bill specifies no standards or safeguards that will apply to inter-country adoptions under a bilateral agreement, and it is therefore not clear whether lower standards, or fewer safeguards, may apply to inter-country adoptions under a bilateral agreement that apply under the Hague Convention. Nor are such standards or safeguards contained in the Family Law (Bilateral Arrangements—Intercountry Adoption) Regulations 1998, which provide for the recognition of an overseas adoption under the law of a country with which Australia has a bilateral arrangement.
Your response to my first question did not seem to address the justification for their concerns.
Mr Manning : I might address an issue you raised in your question about departments not making submissions to the committee. From the Attorney-General Department's perspective, unfortunately we became aware of this appearance only on Wednesday afternoon, so there was not time. There is no reason from our perspective for not making a submission other than that.
Senator MARSHALL: You were not aware that this bill had been referred to a committee for inquiry?
Mr Manning : I was not aware of the time line, no. The department might have been aware that it had been referred for inquiry.
Senator MARSHALL: Do you know when it was referred for inquiry because it was some time ago?
Mr Manning : Senator, the Attorney-General's Department is not responsible for the legislation so I am not, but my department of immigration colleague might be able to answer that question. I was going to provide the committee with some additional information about how we administer country programs generally which might go some way to answering your question. Would you like me to do that, Senator?
Senator MARSHALL: Yes, sure.
Mr Manning : As I said at the outset, the approach of this department in relation to regulating or administering intercountry adoption programs is the same whether or not the country you are dealing with is a Hague or a non-Hague country. What I probably neglected to say and to acknowledge up-front is that this department and the government would greatly encourage countries involved in intercountry adoption to become members of Hague purely because it provides, I suppose, a statement of intent in relation to standards which the country intends to comply with and would probably provide a degree of ease of administration in the sense that everyone is gathered around the same table in relation to the standards. I did outline that South Korea is in the process of doing that and there may be reasons why Taiwan is unable to. That brings us then to the issue of our approach generally, which is one of ensuring practical compliance with and implementation of Hague convention standards, rather than something more theoretical.
I was not able to hear all of the evidence so far this morning but I think it was acknowledged that the fact that a state is party to a particular convention does not mean it is fully compliant with that convention. I would assume members of the committee would be aware, as I am, that there would be countries who may be party to human rights treaties but where the situations in those countries are not compliant with those treaties. We would encourage and probably prefer all countries being party to an important multilateral convention such as the Hague convention. But the reality is that being a party is not enough in relation to us satisfying ourselves about what occurs in a country in relation to intercountry adoption, so we undertake more practical measures to satisfy ourselves of that. As I have said a couple of times—
Senator MARSHALL: Just on that, what are those practical measures? This comes back to the question that I flagged I would ask you and was obvious to the committee from hearing the last witnesses. If it is the same process, how is it going to be faster? Could you answer that and also tell us about the practical measures you intend to put in place to ensure compliance.
Mr Manning : I will speak generally about the approach of this department to engaging with what are called countries of origin in relation to children who may be adopted into Australia. Perhaps the best example I have is the most recent and is involving South Africa. I know South Africa is a Hague convention country but the approach I am about to outline would be the approach that the Australian government would undertake at the outset with any country. The types of things that we do at the outset are also the types of things that we satisfy ourselves, on an ongoing basis, are still in existence in relation to countries.
The department would consider the laws, infrastructure and practices of those countries and whether or not they comply with Hague standards and principles. So obviously we would be wanting to satisfy ourselves that countries which we deal with have a priority for placing children who may be available for adoption in that country and they are able to maintain that link with their community and culture, and that intercountry adoption is a matter of last—
Senator MARSHALL: Mr Manning, I do not want to cut you off but my question is: if it is the same process how will it be faster and, secondly, what steps do you put in place to ensure compliance? You really have not gone there for me yet.
Mr Manning : What I am trying to answer is the issue of what we do to ensure compliance. The tool we use to ensure compliance is not: are they party to a multilateral treaty? It is: on the ground are the circumstances in place to as much as possible ensure compliance with the standards of that international treaty? That is why I was outlining how we look at, in both theory and practice, if they have laws in place that promote keeping the children in the country as much as possible and do they do that in practice?
CHAIR: Mr Manning, if you were here in person I would have interrupted you, but I am finding it hard to interrupt you on the telephone. Senator Marshall's question was about how the process was faster. Perhaps it is the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that should be answering that rather than you.
Mr Manning : I am happy to hand over to them. I was not meaning to be not answering the senator's question. As I said, I was trying to answer the question about what we do to ensure in practice that the standards are met. I will hand over to my immigration department colleagues now in relation to the legislation.
CHAIR: Department of immigration, do you have a comment in response to Senator Marshall's question? We have lost the teleconference line temporarily so we will take a short break.
Proceedings suspended from 10:34 to 10:39
CHAIR: Mr Manning, before the break we were trying to get the Department of Immigration, who I understand are in the room with you, to answer some of Senator Marshall's questions about how the new procedures will speed up the process.
Ms Finney : I will compare the current situation of the full Hague adoption for the purposes of Australian citizenship and the state and territory or bilateral arrangements. Under the full Hague adoption process, once the adoption is finalised with the issue of the adoption compliance certificate an application may be made for the adopted child to obtain Australian citizenship under section 19C of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. What this means is that the child is able to be granted Australian citizenship and then have access to an Australian passport to enter Australia as a citizen with their family. The proposal is to extend the same arrangements to the intercountry bilateral adoption arrangements. Currently, by contrast, under those arrangements a child will arrive in Australia under a subclass 102 adoption visa. The parents have to apply for the adoption visa and after the visa is granted they arrive in Australia. After a period under which the adoption is finalised under Australian law, the child is then considered an Australian citizen by operation of law under section 13 of the act, 'Citizenship by adoption'. In terms of streamlining, the answer to the question is that, if this bill were to proceed, the child would have faster access to Australian citizenship. They would not have to go through the visa process and also the process of having to obtain a passport from their home country.
Senator MARSHALL: Thank you. What mechanisms will we as a government have for ensuring that our bilateral partners under this legislation comply with what has been described as effectively the Hague convention in any case?
Mr Manning : What we will have is what we have now. I will not go into the same amount of detail as I did before, but insofar as we are satisfied that their laws, practices and processes comply with it, that will still occur. The differences Ms Finney outlined are in relation to the acquisition of Australian citizenship. There is no change to what they are required to do in relation to adoption. The only change in relation to country of origin is that this legislation may mean that they may not have to go and obtain a passport in that country of origin.
Senator MARSHALL: So we do not actually do anything at the moment? We simply rely on the other Hague Convention partners implementing the convention and their laws and that is what we would intend to do with our bilateral partners?
Mr Manning : It is not strictly correct to say that we do not do anything; we satisfy ourselves that they, in their ordinary practice, comply with the standards of the Hague convention—and we will continue to do that.
Senator MARSHALL: That is exactly what I have asked: how do you do that?
Mr Manning : We do that through ensuring that they have appropriate laws in place. We do that through engaging with them. We do it through engaging with parents who deal with them. We do it through engaging with other countries and NGOs who work in that country.
Senator SIEWERT: One of the points that was made about the fast-tracking and earlier citizenship is the issue around post-adoption follow-up. My understanding from the evidence we got this morning and from submissions is that this process will mean that the requirements that are currently on that post-adoption follow-up up will not be so easy to do. Is that something you have considered?
Ms Wood : I think what you are referring to is the removal of the guardianship of the minister.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, and that links to the lack of post-adoption follow-up.
Ms Wood : We look at post-adoption support, regardless of Hague convention adoptions or bilateral arrangements, as being the same thing. So while there will not be a requirement for the minister to have guardianship of the adopted child under the proposed changes, they will be subject to post-adoption support just as Hague convention adoptions will be.
Senator SIEWERT: So they will go to the other process?
Ms Wood : Yes. The state and territory central authorities have processes in place to do post-placement reporting and supervision. That is where that process will keep in.
Senator SIEWERT: Does that also go back to the country of origin and the follow-up there?
Ms Wood : Yes. The state and territory central authorities will facilitate the reporting to the country of origin, depending on the country of origin's requirements.
Senator MARSHALL: My understanding is that Hague convention signatories are monitored by the Intercountry Adoption Technical Assistance Program, which has a permanent bureau which does provide some monitoring of the implementation of the Hague convention in signatory countries but would not do so under a bilateral arrangement.
Mr Manning : My understanding is that there is that program to provide support for Hague convention signatories. Obviously if they are not Hague convention signatories then the view of the Hague would not provide that support, although NGOs in the international adoption sphere in the countries that we deal with do often provide technical assistance.
Senator MARSHALL: In effect, the proposition being put to the committee is that it is the same as the Hague convention but it is just not the Hague convention. Hence my earlier question about how we satisfy ourselves on this. I do not know what the permanent bureau actually does to satisfy itself either, by the way. But assuming that they do do something, will we be matching that?
Mr Manning : I am not completely across what they would do in the sense that I do not think they have provided the services in Australia. My understanding is that they provide the services when that is sought from. As I say, some international NGOs provide similar support services for countries who are not party to the convention should they need that.
Senator MARSHALL: I am simply reading from a summary of the convention, which I think has been provided by them. It says, 'A permanent bureau has for many years undertaken the review and monitoring of the 1993 Hague convention's practical operation.'
Mr Manning : As part of that they would do a survey, and Australia, like other Hague convention signatories, would submit answers to that survey.
Senator MARSHALL: I do not want to be pedantic but we are being asked to accept the proposition that this will be the same as the Hague convention. Earlier you said you did not really know what they did. Is someone able to find out about that? As I said earlier, we have not had any evidence from the department that it is the case. That follows into my next question, which you might want to take as a job lot. There are a number of issues and concerns being raised in submissions to this inquiry. Do you accept those concerns and issues?
Mr Manning : Can I clarify a point you raised. I said earlier that I am not across the detail of everything they do in other countries. That is because, whilst we are obviously aware of our involvement with them, they do, on request, provide more extensive technical assistance to targeted states, which in a way is an acknowledgement that, should a country be a Hague convention country, it does not mean they do not need assistance. I am not across everything they do in every other country is what I was saying.
Senator MARSHALL: It was not my intention to accuse you, and I am sorry if you took it that way.
Mr Manning : Not at all; I just wanted to clarify my answer. In relation to the broader issue, I would come back to the broader point that, in relation to Australia's implementation of our arrangements, we treat countries the same substantively, whether they are Hague countries or not, and our expectations of them are the same in terms of the outcomes produced. Insofar as any of the submissions made to the committee may be of the view that the changes to this legislation will result in a lessening of those standards, the government does not agree with that because it will continue to apply the same standards and expect the same outcomes regardless of whether a country is a party to the Hague convention or is a country with which we have a bilateral arrangement—which, as I said earlier, in the not too distant future we think will just be one country.
Senator MARSHALL: That may be the case. But I think some of the concerns and issues raised by the submitters are given more weight given the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights assessment, which seems to agree with them in many instances. It would be handy if we knew from either or both departments which concerns they believe have some merit and which ones they believe have no merit, and the reasoning behind that. At the moment, I can read all this and it sounds well argued and well presented, and there has really been nothing put to us that is contrary to that. I am finding it difficult not to simply accept what is being put to me at face value.
Mr Manning : It might be useful if you could clarify which particular points in the submissions you are referring to. There are a number of submissions and they make a number of different points, so it is difficult to address them all.
Senator MARSHALL: That is right. It would be more helpful if you were able to identify the ones you agree with and the ones you do not.
CHAIR: As a question on notice, I think the committee would like the department to have a look at some of the submissions and tell us which of the submitters' comments you think are patently wrong. We would like you to let us know why you think they are wrong and what the real facts are.
Mr Manning : We are happy to do that.
CHAIR: Okay. I think that satisfies Senator Marshall's question. Senator Reynolds.
Senator REYNOLDS: I am wondering whether the department could provide, either now or on notice, a bit more information about the life cycle of adoption processes. We heard from some of the witnesses this morning—which you have already discussed through Senator Marshall's questions—about the process in country to validate their processes. Could you also provide more information about what support is provided on adoption and in arrival in Australia. We also heard submissions about the support requirements of the adoptees later on in life.
Mr Manning : We can certainly do that, noting that post-adoption support was one of the issues which led to the Prime Minister's announcement of some reform in this area. We can certainly address what happens in the various states and territories now.
Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you, that would be good. That was clearly at the heart of the concerns of some of our witnesses this morning. They saw the increased risk in non-Hague countries in relation to these areas.
One of the issues that they raised as well, in written submissions and again here this morning, related to terminology in the bill in relation to the rights of the child being 'primary' versus 'paramount'. I am just wondering whether either of you have any feedback or comments on that.
Ms Finney : I think the issue was well made and it is something that we would be happy to take away to see how we can assist in that regard.
Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you very much. There has also been some concern expressed in the written submissions, and again here today, about private adoption processes. They used the United States as an example where there was a lack of controls and more option for fraud, or more focus on the rights of the parents versus the rights of the child. So I am just wondering whether you have any input or any thoughts or whether it is something you want to take on notice in terms of your thoughts on the merits or issues relating to private processes.
Mr Manning : I will just say at the outset that I think one of my colleagues might provide more information. The government has announced an intention to look at a national framework which could include an accredited non-government organisation providing some of the services currently provided by government agencies. That would in fact bring Australia into line with the vast majority of countries operating in this area. It has not, though, suggested that it is going to move to a for-profit type model or anything like that. Indeed, my understanding of the Hague convention is that there is a requirement that, when accrediting a non-government organisation, it be a not-for-profit body. That is my general answer. Ms Wood has something to add.
Ms Wood : It might assist the committee if we provide you with some policy papers that we have developed in relation to expatriate adoptions and no-child adoption. We can certainly do that.
Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. That would be extremely helpful. We have nods all around the table here from all of us. That would be very helpful.
One of the criticisms this morning from the UNICEF representatives was the lack of consultation by the department, particularly in relation to the fact that the full report was not released. I think they said only 40 pages was released. I wonder if you could tell me what consultations have occurred and whether you think there is any opportunity going forward to have increased consultations with both child advocates and parent advocates.
Mr Manning : The report being referred to was compiled by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the redacted version that was made public was done by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as well. So it was neither of the two departments in this room. That said, my understanding is that there were more than 100 submissions made from interested individuals and organisations to that interdepartmental committee, and there was an open invitation, I think, placed on the website of this department, the Attorney-General's Department, for interested people to make a submission. So I can say that, but I cannot answer on behalf of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet about whether or not they have any future plans to release a greater percentage of it.
Senator REYNOLDS: Just on that, have you had any feedback or do you know why the rest of it was redacted?
Mr Manning : I do not know for sure, but I was going to offer an opinion about three sensitive lots of information which could have led to it, which often happens in these types of things. I think the report was meant to be a report to the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues—a frank report on what could happen in this space to meet the Prime Minister's stated need of offering better outcomes for children in relation to intercountry adoption. It would have had a critique of the experience in relation to dealing with some other countries and other country programs. It also would have had information about the performance of states and territories. Indeed, it would have had discussions of the merits of accreditation and some factors there which, as I indicated, could—although no decision has been made—be subject to a tender process, for example.
So I imagine that there are three types of information, which would mean that they would not be put into the public space because of, as I say, sensitivities with international relations or state and territory relations or, indeed, because some aspects of it could be subject to a tender process later on. That is all I am aware of. I am just looking around the room to see if any of my colleagues are aware of any other reasons, and they are shaking their heads. As I say, that is a hypothesis on my part, because I was not involved in the production of the public version.
Senator MARSHALL: I guess the committee could ask PM&C directly to respond or perhaps you are able to ask them on our behalf. One of the issues that has been raised is that some of the submissions that did not seek confidentiality also have not been publicly released. With all these things, I accept what you say. I think there are probably some very good reasons why some elements ought not to be released. But, the minute things are not released, it gives an opportunity for people to say that there must be an ulterior reason why things should not be released. I guess as parliamentarians we normally err on the side of transparency rather than anything else, if we can. Maybe you could also include in the question why some of the submissions have been kept confidential. As I say, I accept that often there are very good reasons why some things should not be made public. I am not disputing that.
Mr Manning : We in the Attorney-General's Department will follow up with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and get a response to that query, which will be included in the other material that we are giving you on notice.
Senator REYNOLDS: Just following on from that: some of the feedback today was based on a lack of information and so there was the criticism that the process was not transparent enough. Could you also make as much of that information available not only to the committee but also more publicly?
Mr Manning : Yes. We will certainly bring those concerns to the attention of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I cannot give an undertaking, obviously, as to what they might do, but we will bring the concerns to their attention. As I said earlier, we will include in our response to you their response as to the reasons for what has happened so far.
Senator SIEWERT: Chair, I have to race off. Thank you for putting up with me on the phone line. That is much appreciated.
CHAIR: Thank you, Rachel. Finally, can I clarify an answer you gave to Senator Reynolds' question. I think it was someone from the department of immigration who suggested that, under the bilateral arrangement, the 'primacy' of the child's welfare is important, whereas, under the convention, the rights of the child are said to be 'paramount'. I think you said that you would go away and have a look at that. Did you?
Ms Finney : Yes. I am in consultation with my colleagues here from the Attorney-General's Department. We will have a look at that and come back to you on notice.
CHAIR: You could not agree or disagree at this time that that is the case? The suggestion that was made does not sound right to me, but the witnesses did make the suggestion and I am just wondering whether—
Ms Finney : Certainly there was no overt intention for there to be a different meaning, if that is the concern. We want to take it away and have a closer look at it so that we can respond more fully.
CHAIR: That would be very useful. We have asked for a number of questions on notice. We will let you know when we would like to get those back. The committee has an obligation to report by some date and so we would like you to have the answers back to us before then. I think there is some detailed work in what we have asked, so do the best you can.
Thank you very much for your evidence. There was some comment from the committee earlier on that these teleconferences are always difficult. I appreciate that you have only had short notice to appear in Sydney, and it is not always easy to drop what you are doing and come away for the day. It is always better if we can see you. Perhaps we should have these hearings in Canberra rather than Sydney, but we are trying to do a number of things. I just mention that in passing. Again, thank you for your help and we look forward to receiving your answers.
Committee adjourned at 11:05